Category Archives: Podcasts 2019

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 26-31 December 2019

Russia If You’re Listening (ABC) Matt Bevan’s third series on Putin, Trump and Russia has come to a close. In Episode 8 “How Russia’s rotten gas got Trump into Trouble”, he backtracks to explain how Ukraine used the nuclear weapons that were left on its soil after the breakup of the Soviet Union to negotiate gas supplies from Russia and cold hard cash from the United States.  In Episode 9, the final one, “Putin’s greatest victory- a conspiracy theory so good it got Trump impeached” he looks at Trump’s support of Putin’s accusation that Ukraine is the baddie here, and how it benefits no one but Russia. And how deliciously ironic that our Australian Matt Bevan should have a name so similar to Matt Bevin, the republican governor of Kentucky who is making some very questionable pardons.

Earshot (ABC) This podcast from  August 20189 has been rattling round on the phone for a while. Naponi’s story: Loving a man with schizophrenia tells the story of a Sudanese woman now living in Toowoomba, whose husband has been committed to a psychiatric facility for the last fourteen years. After a long history of domestic violence against Naponi, her husband was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but this is rejected by many of the male elders in the Sudanese community, who accuse her of using domestic violence as a way of getting rid of him. Australian law, witchcraft and domestic violence all come together in a confronting case.

Torn Curtain: The Secret History of the Cold War (ABC) During summer, the ABC saves money by recycling programs from the previous year’s broadcasting. They dug quite a bit deeper than that in Torn Curtain, which was originally broadcast in 2006 as part of the still-missed Hindsight.  The fact that it’s now fourteen years old doesn’t matter: it’s a fantastic program. How could I know so little about my own century? I found Episode 2 Science, Spies and Australia’s bid for the bomb to be absolutely fascinating. Much of the material has been available only in the last twenty years or so. It tells the story of  Tom Kaiser, a Melbourne PhD student in London (very good paper on him by Phillip Deery here), who was a member of the Communist Party and fell under the scrutiny of Australian authorities who wanted to prove their ‘diligence’ so that Australia would be included in Britain’s plans for nuclear weapons. Episode 5 The Nuclear War we nearly had in 1983  was excellent too, about the build up of nuclear weapons in Western Germany and the horrifying potential for inadvertent nuclear war that they provoked.  It’s really worth listening to the whole five episodes.  How did I not know these things?

99% Invisible While in the Christmas mood, I listened to Episode 334 from December 2018. Called Christmas with the Allusionist, it’s a cross-promotion of the Allusionist podcast program, a podcast about language. This episode has two stories. The first is about an events manager in Birmingham England who decided to promote Winterval (a portmanteau of Winter and Festival), a 40 day event of which Christmas was a part, only to be accused of “Political Correctness Gone Mad”. The second part was about a re-creation of a ‘Dickensian’ village and the effect of Dickens in shaping our consciousness of Christmas ‘tradition’.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-25 December 2019

annear_nothing_on_TVNothing on TV I’ve just started listening to Robyn Annear’s podcast series ‘Nothing on TV’. It’s great. Annear is a Victorian historian, whose book Bearbrass largely sparked my interest in Melbourne, and she is wry, funny, and quirky. As is this podcast. She draws on the marvellous resources of the online Trove database to chase down odd events, and researches them further. In Episode 1 Enter the Elephant, she takes the story of a tragic drowning of a young boy in Cremorne in 1854 whose body was finally recovered by the elephant at Cremorne Gardens nearby- or was it? She then goes on to a discussion of elephants in 1850s Australia and the phenomenon of the Pleasure Garden. All accompanied by the pop of a champagne cork, and a lovely, broad Australian accent.

RevolutionsPodcast. Well, the revolutionary ‘People’s Will’  assassinated Csar Alexander II in 1881, hoping that it would launch the revolution but it didn’t. All it did was unleash another wave of repression. But by the late 1890s, the stars were aligning for the socialists again. In Episode 10.21 The Socialist Revolutionaries, Mike Duncan identifies four different groups who come under the ‘Socialist Revolutionary’ umbrella, although it’s almost Monty Pythonesque “Peoples Front of Judea” overtones. He talks about Catherine Breshkovsky – what a fascinating life! I wish I could find a biography of her.

In Our Time (BBC) I always thought that the Rapture was an American Evangelical thing, but it originated with Irish Anglican minister John Nelson Darby, who was influential amongst the Plymouth Brethren in England in 1832 and founded the Exclusive Brethren in 1848. He travelled and preached in America, where his ideas about pre-tribulation rapture theory was embraced (i.e. that God would take up the elect and whisk them up to heaven, away from the seven years of tribulation which will end when Jesus returns, ushering in 1000 years of Gods reign on earth). In this program, The Rapture, Melvyn Bragg discusses the Rapture, and its political and theological consequences.  Perhaps not for everyone – it gets pretty hard going theologically, although the second half is more interesting.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9-16 December 2019


Amir Timur or Tamerlane  Photographer: Adam Jones

Empires of History – The Ottoman Series- Not many episodes left to listen to, but centuries of the Ottoman Empire left to go. I’ve got a feeling that this series is just going to peter out.Episode 11: Of Thy Insolence and Folly looks at the Battle of Ankara between the Thunderbolt Sultan Bayezid and Timur- better known to me as Tamerlane. Ye Gods, what a monster HE is! In Episode 12: The Battle of Ankara and the Death of Sultan Bayezid 1 follows through to Tamerlane’s victory.


My 2019 Adelaide Writers’ Festival. Perhaps I should just pretend that I’m there, eight months later! David Marr discusses the essays in his collection My Country, but it’s a pretty digressive (and, being David Marr, loquacious and at times rather arch) talk about his writing over the years, particularly his writing about ‘monsters’.

In Rise of the Right,chaired by Dominic Knight, there are three speakers: Carolin Emcke
(Against Hate), Nancy MacLean (Democracy in Chains) and Jeff Sparrow (Trigger Warnings.) This festival took place in March 2019, before the Australian Federal Election and there was still an expectation in this pro-Labor crowd that Labor would win, and Brexit was still a great muddle.  Emcke spoke about the European, and particularly German experience of the rise of hate, while Nancy MacLean spoke about the work of economist James McGill Buchanan and the influence of the Koch brothers in a determined attempt to subvert democracy. [There wasa great deal of controversy over this book when it was released in America].Jeff Sparrow spoke about the Australian experience, and the use by the right of the concept of ‘political correctness’ as a form of attack in the culture wars.  It’s an interesting podcast.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 December 2019

Maree Man geoglyph at Finnis Springs near Maree

Aerial shot of Marree Man. Source: Wikipedia

Earshot (ABC) 24/10/19 Marree Man- is he a relation of Mungo Man perhaps? Well- no. He’s a huge carving of an Aboriginal man, etched into the red dust around the South Australian outback town of Maree 21 years ago. Yes- you read right- twenty one years ago, not 20,000. At four kms. in length and 28 kms in circumference, this is a huge piece of artwork – but who did it? Not  Erich Van Danikan’s Gods and their Chariots, but maybe  U.S. or Australian servicemen from the nearby Woomera base? Someone as a joke? It’s certainly a complex hoax, with fax machines clattering into life with mysterious faxes, and clues planted all over the world. The Mystery of the Marree Man is a fascinating podcast.

Hazel Rowley Lecture. Did you know that many of the Adelaide Writers Festival talks are available on podcast? In 2019 the Hazel Rowley Memorial Lecture was given by Maria Tumarkin, whose most recent book Axiomatic draws on the stories of multiple people, as did much of Hazel Rowley’s work with her joint biographies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Satre. In this lecture, Maria Tumarkin presents as series of nine alternative openings to her talk, covering a  range of perspectives on life writing, the ‘NON-fiction’-ness of non-fiction, the art of biography and the hard graft of writing.  She identifies as the ‘take-away’ of her lecture, as Americans would put it, and it is that the task of the non-fiction writer is to write about real people in a way that makes it impossible for them to be scooped up and repurposed, or turned into something or someone else, to meet other people’s fantasies.  The person, she says, is sovereign: they are never ‘character’. This beautifully-written lecture is read, so it is a little too garbled in places and rather stilted in its delivery but it is nonetheless excellent listening (although the interference of a lecture from an adjoining hall at the Writers Festival is distracting)

Russia If You’re Listening (ABC) In Episode 6 The Spies Who Suck at Spying, Matt Bevin looks at the Russian assassination attempts in England dating from the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, up to the unsuccessful poisoning of former Russian military office and double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. (25/11/19)

Revolutionspodcast  While we’re over in Russia, Episode10.19 introduces Nicky and Alix, who were going to face the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. This is a pretty sympathic analysis of two people completely interwoven within the European royalty network of Queen Victoria’s children.  Episode 10.20 The Liberal Tradition (Such as it is) goes back to even Catherine the Great to examine people who might be described as ‘liberals’, even though they were few and far between, and reluctant to use the term. It then goes through the Tsar Liberator in the 1870s, the repression of Alexander III and culminating with historian and politician Pavel Milyukov who would become involved with the Constitutional Democratic Party (known as the Kadets)

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-30 November 2019

Letters of Love in World War II. That’s it- it’s over. What a fantastic podcasts!!!  Listen to them!! Home at Last: Grief and Relief.  I hadn’t really thought about those months after the war was over, with the German soldiers coming home to Germany.  You’re told in the very first episode that Cyril and Olga went on to have a happy marriage together, so you know that nothing awful is going to happen at the last minutes before he gets home.  Really, really good.


Rough Translations.   Ghana’s Parent Trap  (20/06/18 – yes, it’s old)  In Ghana, parents ambitious for their children’s education send them to school at ONE year old, and expect rote learning and homework. A program to instruct teachers in play-based education had results, but when it was extended to the parents, it did not go as planned.

History Workshop. My very wise PhD supervisor, Richard Broome, advised me that when you’re presenting a paper at a conference, you should work on a ratio of 140 words per minute available to you. It’s a shame that Yasmin Khan wasn’t given the same advice when she presented her 2019 Raphael Samuel Memorial Lecture on “Women on the Frontline of Empire”. The podcast itself is interesting- looking at women during WWII across the empire (Africa, India, to a lesser extent Australia and Canada) and how the stationing of soldiers affected them, and the economic changes for individual countries brought about by the empire’s involvement in war.  But … her presentation is so fast and garbled that it’s really hard work.

Russia If You’re Listening (ABC). Episode 5  (18/11/19) When the Father of Brexit met Mother Russia is a bit of a misnomer, because there is no evidence (yet) that Nigel Farrage, (the Father of Brexit) actually met with Putin or his operatives. This episode traces the rise of Nigel Farrage, prompted by Mad Cow Disease of all things, and claims that Russia influenced the Brexit campaign through social media.

RevolutionsPodcast  Episode 10.18 The Witte System. Well, if the peasants aren’t up to a revolution, and your bourgeoisie is non-existent, what’s a revolutionary to do? Fortunately Sergei Witte (never heard of the man) arrived in Russia to stimulate an industrial economy and build the Trans-Siberian Railway.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 November 2019

RevolutionsPodcast.  After blowing up the Czar, the revolutionaries went into exile in Europe and began having theoretical arguments amongst themselves.  Episode 10.17 The Emancipation of Labour Group goes through the arguments mounted by different groups e.g. you had to allow industrialization so that the industrial proletariat could rise up like Marx predicted; or you had to rely on the peasants because Russia was different to other countries and hadn’t even embarked properly on feudalism; or – from Marx and Engels themselves- criticism that Marxism was being twisted out of its original meaning.

Letters of Love in World War II. Oh no- only one more episode after this. Episode 7: Bergen-Belsen: Sorrow and Shock, deals with late 1944 to mid 1945. The people of England are anticipating that the war will soon by over, but Cyril knows that it may take longer. Faced with ‘ordinary’ Germans, Cyril finds their instructions against fraternization to be very harsh, but Olga is more clear-sighted, especially in view of the news coming out from the concentration camps.

Shaping Opinion. (August 5 2019)  I’m on a bit of an Irish Famine thing at the moment, but I’m almost ready to leave it alone.  In The Famine that Changed Ireland and America podcaster Tim O’Brien interviews Christine Kinealy, the Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, an author, and a member of the Irish American Hall of Fame. She says much the same things: that it wasn’t that there wasn’t enough food but the problem of access and that the British Government was inexorably wedded to an ideology that made things worse. She also argues that even for those who emigrated to America, it wasn’t really until the 1960s with the election of President Kennedy that they felt American. She suggested that the prominence of the Irish Famine in the historiography is largely due to the Irish Peace Treaty and the Celtic Tiger economy of the 1990s which encouraged Irish people to look back at their history.


Vickers- Vimy that Ross and Keith Smith flew between London and Darwin Source: Wikipedia

The History Listen (12/11/19)  I write a regular feature in our Heidelberg Historical Society newsletter about what happened in the Heidelberg district one hundred years ago. One hundred years ago, the Great Air Race between London and Darwin brought fame and celebrity to the winners, Ross and Keith Smith and two mechanics Jim Bennett and Wally Shiers. Their achievement is celebrated in The great air race, but unfortunately for me, the contribution of Cedric Ernest Howell from Heidelberg is only a footnote.  And if you want to find out more, you could join Heidelberg Historical Society for only $40.00 and have access through our newsletter to my pearls of wisdom every two months about Heidelberg 100 Years ago!!! (including a piece about Cedric Ernest Howell)

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 November 2019

peterlooThe Documentary (BBC) 14/08/19 Another podcast that has been hanging round on my phone for ages, Peterloo: The massacre that changed Britain commemorates the 200th anniversary of this repression of popular dissent in 1819.  It tells the story of the massacre, also commemorated in the recent Mike Leigh film, and interviews descendants of people who participated in the protest.

Empires of History Podcast Well, I’ve finished my U3A class on the Ottoman Empire, and this podcast is still back in the 14th century, and they seem to stop completely in June 2019. S Episode 9  The Thunderbolt Turns to Europe has Sultan Bayezid going into Anatolia. Episode 10, which is in two parts is called A Crusade Dies at Nicopolis, and it goes through Sultan Beyezid’s battle with the European Crusaders, headed by King Sisimund of Hungary. This sure is blood-thirsty history- on both sides.

The History Listen (ABC) In War Recipes (5/11/19) the theme of food amongst starving prisoners is explored, through recipe books compiled clandestinely by prisoners. One is a metal-bound recipe book compiled by POW Ron Foster in Borneo as a ‘dream cookbook’ to share with his family when he returned home; the second was a communal cookbook compiled by women at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.

Rear Vision (ABC) The Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up. In The Making and Breaking of the Berlin Wall (10/11/19) I was fascinated to learn that only about 2km of the wall still stands, and that it now has to have heritage protection!

Russia If You’re Listening (ABC) Gee I like this program. Episode 3 How To Spin A War (4/11/19) is about Russia’s invasion of both Ukraine and the Crimea and its success in muddying the waters so much that in the end you really aren’t quite sure what happened.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 November 2019

Russia If You’re Listening (ABC) Series 3 has started! This time Matt Bevan is looking at Putin’s strategy of destabilization in the west- how prescient, given that Ukraine now lies at the heart of the Democrat’s impeachment case.  In Episode 1 (21/10/19) , A Cold Wet Day in Salisbury Matt returns to the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skipral, the event that first drew his attention to Putin and his reach.  Episode 2 From Spymaster to President (28/10/19) looks at Putin’s need to always have an enemy against which to mobilize Russian society.


Source: Wikipedia

In Our Time I’ve just read a bookabout the Irish Famine, and so I finally got round to listening to this episode The Great Irish Famine, dated 4/4/19. Among other things, most of which were covered in the book by Enda Delaney that I read, they do discuss whether the Irish Famine constituted a genocide. One of the historians (they’re often hard to distinguish in this program) argued very strongly that it was not genocide because, despite the disdain for the Irish, there was no intent to kill them off. However, there was a strong determination to implement dramatic social change in Ireland as a way of solving what seemed the intractable problem of poverty.  Instead of seeing migration (especially to America) as a penalty, they argue that there would have been many, many more deaths without that escape valve.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 22-31 October

Empires of History Podcast. The Ottoman Series. I’ve decided to join a class at my U3A on the History of the Ottoman Empire. I missed the first class and am feeling a little out of my depth, so I’ve downloaded this series. It’s American and I’m not sure whether it’s complete or whether he ran out of puff, because the last one was in June this year. Who knows, perhaps it’s a long time between episodes. Even though many of the names are unfamiliar, he doesn’t move so quickly that they all merge into a big muddle. He’s obviously reading it from pages (which you can hear rustling) and the production values are pretty basic, but I’m finding it interesting and useful. However, the special episode with historian John McHugo was pretty ordinary.  I’m up to Episode 8 The Thunderbolt Strikes, Dec. 19, 2018.

In Our Time Another podcast that’s been hanging around on the phone for ages, and first recorded in 2016 is 1816: The Year Without A Summer. During 1815 Mt Tambora erupted in Indonesia, the largest eruption in recorded history. This episode has a volcanologist , a historian and a professor of literature who discuss the world-wide ramifications of this eruption. It caused famines in post-Napoleonic Europe, it might have triggered the west-ward movement of anti-slavery Americans across the mid-west, and the wild weather it provoked kept the Romantics inside their holiday home in Geneva, making up stories like Frankenstein.  It’s an interesting application of big history onto an abrupt environmental intervention.

Earshot (ABC). I must confess that you’re NOT likely to hear “Quick- an emergency!- we need a historian!!”  But in the case of Mosul, when it felt to ISIS, a historian was just what was needed to report the facts of what was happening, on the ground, when journalists could not get there. At great personal danger Omar Mohammed created the Mosul Eye blog (which still operates).  This Earshot Episode Mosul Eye This is his story.

99%Invisible Apparently Toronto has a love/hate relationship with its raccoons. Who knew?- I didn’t even see a raccoon while I was there. In fact, have I EVER seen a raccoon? Anyway, apparently they get into the rubbish and strew it around, so the City authorities contracted a design company to design a raccoon-proof compost bin.  They had to lock securely, so that the raccoons couldn’t get in, but they also had to open automatically because they were collected by a truck with a motorized arm (like the trucks we have here in Melbourne) The resulting bin, described in Raccoon Resistance had a sort of dial-lock, but would it defeat the raccoons??  The website has videos which had me cheering for the raccoon. (The answer is no…)

The Documentary (BBC). Professor Elizabeth Dore conducted the first large-scale oral history project in Cuba in thirty years, and this podcast Cuban Voices is based on some of the interviews she conducted. This episode was put together after the selection of Miguel Diaz-Canel to replace Raoul Castro in 2018. Her respondents talk about the shortages during the Special Period, and some speak with nostalgia of the time before Cuba was opened up to tourism.

Assignment (BBC)  Genoa’s Broken Bridge. In August 2018 the Morandi bridge in Genoa collapsed. Opened in 1967, it was one of the longest concrete bridges in the world, connecting Genoa with the rest of Italy, and Italy with Northern Europe.  When it collapsed, killing 43, questions began to be asked about its construction methods and the effects of privatizations.

The History Listen (ABC) Historian Ruth Balint talks about her mother’s recipe book in Cooking for Assimilation. Her mother Evi, came to Australia with her husband and baby son in 1938 after Hitler marched into Vienna, before the wave of post-war European immigration from 1945 onwards.  Her recipe book, written first in Hungarian but increasingly in English, documents her mother’s growing network of neighbours and friends in that time-honoured tradition of recipe-swapping.

Letters of Love in World War II. I can’t bear to keep listening because I’m using them up and there’s only two more left after this.  But I can’t bear to not listen because I want to hear what happens next. In Episode 6 Germany: On the Approach, it is 1944 and Cyril is in Europe, going through France and then across to Germany as the German army is in retreat. Interestingly, they start re-numbering their letters to each other from ‘1’ again after Cyril’s short break in England.

Outlook (BBC) I’m quite claustrophobic, and the idea of diving INTO an iceberg makes me feel lightheaded. It might look beautiful, but all that calving and grinding and moving….no thanks. The Diver Trapped Inside an Iceberg tells the story of Jill Heinerth, photographer and explorer who eventually decided that perhaps it was dangerous after all.  30 Oct 2019


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 7-21 October 2019

I’ve fallen behind so I’ll compress these into one entry

Letters of love in World War II. In Episode 5 D-Day Visitations we are now in 1944 and Olga is surprised and delighted by Claude’s fleeting visit home to take control of a new tank. The short visit rekindles their relationship which was looking inexplicably rocky in the last episode.  I’m enjoying this so much that I only listen to one episode at a time to make it last longer.

Rough Translation. This podcast seems to have changed direction this season. It used to be about a concept and how it was expressed in different cultures. The episode Mom in Translation is more about how the individual changes when in a different culture. In this episode, an American mother married to a soldier of Filipino background shifts with their young children to Japan, where now she is the odd one out with her blonde hair and pale conmlexion. Her little primary-school-aged son, who never fitted into the American schools on army bases, decided that he wanted to attend a Japanese school, which meant that she had to readjust her ideas about mothering.

Revolutionspodcast. The Tsar might have done the progressive thing by emancipating the serfs (one of those give-with-one-hand-take-with-the-other arrangements whenever some powerful group is threatened by losing an ‘entitlement’) but he was still the No. 1 Assassin Target amongst radicals.  In The Tsar Must Die, we hear about the multiple near misses that man had…. for a while.  In Episode 10.16 The Russian Colony we hear about the different radical groups in the 1870s and 1880s. I found this one a little hard to follow – too many Russian names to listen to!

History Workshop  In Concentration Camps and Historical Analogies, historian Dan Stone unpacks the idea of a ‘concentration camp’, challenging the accusation that Trump’s migrant detention centres qualify as such. His definition has the inmates of a concentration camp removed completely from judicial oversight and any system of justice. He distinguishes between the Nazi extermination camps and concentration camps, arguing that people did not stay for any length of time in the Nazi camps, and that these should not be used as the template for a concentration camp. He demonstrates the wide range of concentration camps across 19th and 20th century history.

Outlook (BBC) Identical twins often have a special bond, and when Alex Lewis lost his memory after a road accident, his identical twin Marcus helped him to rebuild his lost memories.  In The painful secret I hid from my twin, there’s a very textured story of memory, secrets and identity.  It’s difficult listening, but very good. It’s the basis of a documentary released on Netflix and some cinemas called “Tell Me Who I Am”.

Earshot. While we’re into some difficult listening, ‘The Call: Inside the Christian Brothers‘ is also very good but challenging. The Christian Brothers have really been brought into disgrace in the Royal Commission against Institutional Sex Abuse, and this program has interviews with two former Christian Brothers who joined as mere pre-adolescent boys.  What a stuffed-up system.


Carbonaceous chondrite (Murchison Meteorite) by James St John

Off Track When I was in the Atacama Desert in Chile (says she casually), I visited a meteorite museum. In The unlikely tale of the Murchison meteorite, we learn that good old Murchison also has a very rare meteorite that sits in its local historical society. 4.6 BILLION years old. I can’t even think of a number that big. Meteorites from this shower have ended up in museums in many countries.